Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting & Sing-Along with Reston Chorale

Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting & Sing-Along with Reston Chorale
Photo by Modern Reston

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

D.C.’s Silver-Line Slog, CITY Journal, Autumn 2014

The following are excerpts from the lengthy subject article by Ethan Epstein:

A costly and long-delayed subway project raises questions about America’s ability to build needed infrastructure.

BRIAN GORDON GREEN/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE.  Metro Washington’s burgeoning population has overwhelmed the public transportation system, making traffic unbearable.




 






A trip through Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport offers a glimpse of what people in the past thought transportation would look like in the future. Opened in 1962, the airport boasts a quintessentially “mod” look, thanks to a stunning, Eero Saarinen–designed main terminal meant to evoke flight. But Dulles evokes the early 1960s in another way: its lack of a rail connection to the city it serves recalls a time when the automobile was king. Indeed, Dulles, the city’s primary international airport, is situated nearly 30 miles of congested highway away from the District of Columbia’s downtown core and linked to the city by only infrequent public buses. Chronic heavy traffic makes the ride painfully slow.
But change is coming. This past summer saw the opening of the first segment of a new Washington subway (dubbed Metro) rail line that eventually will connect Dulles to D.C.’s central business district. The new line’s first phase cost $2.9 billion to construct, and the most optimistic estimates put the final price tag for the project—decades in the making—as high as $5.6 billion. That’s nearly $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the Washington metro area. The sluggishness of the process and its eye-popping cost raise troubling questions about America’s ability to construct vital infrastructure. . .
As a point of comparison for just how expensive the Silver Line will prove to be, consider the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, for which the Russian government was roundly mocked for its vast spending—some $51 billion on construction, nearly $10 billion more than China spent on its 2008 summer games. In particular, critics pointed to a 30.4-mile railroad/highway connecting the ski slopes to the town of Sochi, which alone cost $8.7 billion—about $286 million per mile. As one commentator noted, it would have been cheaper to pave the pathway with a centimeter-thick layer of beluga caviar.
But Washingtonians shouldn’t be quick to chortle. If the Silver Line meets its currently projected cost, it would cost $243 million per mile. And the Russian project included both road and rail, while ascending mountains. . .
Is there a saner approach to transportation infrastructure?  . . . .
 Click here for the full article.

"Bulova's Big Lie": Chairman Bulova grossly mis-stated the intent of the Fairfax Citizens Federation request for an audit of our Public Library at the December 2, 2014, Board of Supervisors meeting.

As Reston 2020 has documented earlier in this post, the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations (FCFCA)--a confederation of County community civic  groups--sent a letter and an FCFCA resolution passed on September 18, 2014, to Board Chairman Sharon Bulova and the County Library Board of Trustees, calling for the County to conduct and independent fiscal and inventory audit of the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) and its Departmental Gift Fund.

As seen on the County website (Board Matters:  Chairman Sharon Bulova on FCFCA Audit Request) and also documented by Reston 2020 in the Summary of the Board meeting, at the December 2, 2014, meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Chairman Bulova states, "Regarding financial policy, the Federation asked about the accounting practices of three separate entities:  The Fairfax County Public Library Gift Fund . . . also the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library groups. . . ."

Chairman Bulova's statement is not true.  In fact, her statement brings up audit proposals that weren't mentioned in the Federation resolution or letter and ignores a key Federation resolution request all together.  Some County residents concerned about the deterioration of our library system are characterizing this mis-statement of the Federation's request as "Bulova's Big Lie."

A straightforward comparison of what Chairman Bulova said the Federation asked for and what we believe they actually asked for reveals the following:
  • The Federation did not ask for an audit or any other review of the Library Foundation or the Friends of the Library groups.  As both Supervisors Hudgins and Smyth suggested in the Board discussion, there is considerable doubt that the Board of Supervisors has the authority to order such an audit of these independent private 501(c)3 organizations or whether it would be constructive.
  • The Federation did intend to ask for an audit of the FCPL Departmental Gift Fund--administered by the Library Director under guidance provided by the Library Board of Trustees--which Chairman Bulova acknowledged accurately and asked the County audit staff examine.  
  • The Federation resolution also asked for "an independent comprehensive fiscal audit of the Fairfax County Public Library," a request that Chairman Bulova totally ignored in her remarks to the Board and in her written response to the Federation.  
  • The Federation also asked for an inventory of FCPL library holdings, noting that none had been conducted since 1988, to which Chairman Bulova responded that FCPL "conducts an annual inventory that reflects holdings by audience and item type."  This may or may not be true, but repeated Virginia Freedom of Information (VFOIA) requests to date for such an FY2014 inventory have been rejected by FCPL, saying it no longer keeps such an inventory.  Moreover, examination of earlier annual materials inventories by concerned community groups have shown significant and unexplained differences between this inventory and other FCPL holdings reports, including collection holdings, discards, etc.  An independent audit is long overdue.
The most charitable interpretation we can put on Chairman Bulova's remarks, especially those identifying the County Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library groups, is that she thought or was led to believe that the FCFCA request for an audit of the "system gift fund" was meant to cover ALL gifts under the County's Policy Regarding Gifts to and Alliances with the Library System.  That policy specifically identifies the Library Foundation as an intermediary for gifts, but it does not mention the Friends of the Library groups.  We have been unable to identify a fund specifically identified as the Library "System Gift Fund" as stated in the FCFCA resolution. Our understanding is that FCFCA's intent was to audit the Departmental Gift Fund, which Chairman Bulova directed.

What we do not know is whether Chairman Bulova was misled by the County staff--her own, the Executive staff (David Molchany, Deputy County Executive spoke for the County at the Board meeting), or the Library administration--as to the intention of the Federation request.  In any event, what Chairman Bulova said at the Board of Supervisors meeting on December 2nd and what she has written the Federation appear to be grossly inaccurate.  

She has the opportunity to clarify her mis-statements and reverse the Board resolution she sponsored during the otherwise relatively quiet holiday period ahead, but there is no evidence at this point that she will.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The RA Board Ethics Process and Competing Proposals: A Board Working Session on an Ethics Committee, Tuesday, December 16, 6PM

The RA Board is proposing the creation of a Board Governance Committee among whose responsibilities would be a review of ethics issues confronting the Board, such as conflicts of interest.  Here is the latest version of that proposal:
 
 

Board member Rachel Muir has offered an alternative approach that involves creating an Ethics Advisory Committee comprising RA, RCA, and Friends of Reston members.   Her presentation on this is provided below:


RA's Board of Directors will have a Board Working Session to discuss the creation of an ethics committee on Tuesday, December 16, at 6PM in RA's Conference Center.  We strongly encourage Restonians to attend and comment. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Op-Ed: Fairfax County Steps up War on Public Libraries, Terry Maynard, RestonNow, December 11, 2014

The following is a re-publication of the op-ed on the same subject published in RestonNow, December 11, 2014.   We have taken the opportunity here to include a few graphics that may help readers visually better understand the points in the op-ed.  Otherwise, the article is the same. 


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Library e-mail tries to prevent public from learning about plans to close Sherwood Regional's second floor.


From: Jones, Christine
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 6:42 PM
To: LIB-SH-ALL
Cc: White-Williams, Patricia
Subject: decision about the second floor
Importance: High

Hi, all.  Yesterday Library Administration confirmed that we will follow the 
recommendations for the second floor that Risk Manager Bob Johnson and I 
drafted.  Specifics are below and the change will begin January 1, 2015.

As before, please don't volunteer this info to the public yet.  If you are 
directly asked about why the conference rooms are unavailable, please explain 
that we are in the midst of reconfiguring the space in response to reduced 
staffing.  Please refer anybody who is not satisfied with that response to me.  
Marketing will have info for us to post shortly.

The tech lab will be open 1 pm - 5 pm Sunday through Thursday and will be 
staffed by Michael Whitaker.  SH staff will cover when Michael is on leave.  The 
lab will not be open on Fridays or Saturdays and the second floor will not be 
open to the public when the lab is closed (except the first Saturday of the 
month for the Friends' book sale).

1.)  Elevator and stairwells.  The elevator and stairwells will be locked when 
the lab is not open to prevent the public from accessing the second floor and 
its restrooms.  Library staff, Friends, and Mount Vernon at Home staff will be 
able to access the second floor through the unlocked stairwell in the staff 
workroom.  The public stairwell will be unlocked during staffed lab hours and 
when AARP volunteers hold tax prep hours.

2.)  Conference rooms.  The four conference rooms on the second floor will be 
permanently closed to the public.  Even when the tech lab is open the rooms are 
essentially unmonitored.  Three of the conference room doors don't have windows 
in them, which is risky under ideal circumstances and unacceptable on SH's 
second floor.

Conference room use is high.  To minimize inconvenience to the community we will 
restore the microfilm room on the first floor to its original purpose of 
conference room.  This will require re-installation of the door and moving the 
microfilm and reader printers to one of the second floor conference rooms.  
Microfilm could be used during open lab hours and I'm confident that other 
accommodations could be made as necessary.   (More to come on the logistics of 
moving the microfilm, Admin is working on that.)

The conference room in the annex could be used by library-sponsored or otherwise 
"known" groups (i.e. English conversation and book clubs).  It is not ideal 
public meeting space since it is accessed from the staff workroom or the 
outside, but that might be acceptable for some groups.  The other doors in the 
annex area are already equipped with locks to prevent annex conference room 
users from entering the staff workroom or the adjoining electrical closet.

Reduction of public meeting space will be the most unpopular consequence of 
reducing lab hours.  The recommendations above won't eliminate community 
unhappiness but they will minimize safety risks while ensuring that SH has at 
least as much public meeting space as other regional branches in FCPL.

3.)  One-on-One Internet Tutoring.  One-on-One Internet tutorials will take 
place during reduced lab hours or on the first floor public Internet stations 
during any open hours.

4.)  Friends.  The Friends will continue to use the second floor to sort and 
sell books, however, public access to the book sale will be restricted to 1 - 5 
pm Sunday through Thursday.  Their current book sale space on the first floor 
will not change.  Friends will be able to access the second floor from the 
stairwell in the staff workroom or may use the elevator (they have an elevator 
key to aid in transporting books between floors).  The second floor will also be 
open to the public for their monthly sales held on the first Saturday of the 
month.

5.)  Tax season.  AARP takes over most of the second floor during tax season and 
will be responsible for crowd control and safety while using the second floor.

6.)  Mount Vernon at Home.  No recommended changes to Mount Vernon at Home's use 
of the second floor.  Mount Vernon at Home staff will be able to access the 
second floor through the stairwell in the library workroom where they enter the 
building.

I know this is a big change for everybody and I regret that some folks might not 
accept the changes gracefully.  Please don't hesitate to refer people to me.  
Thanks, everybody.

Christine

Christine Jones
Acting Branch Manager
Sherwood Regional Library
2501 Sherwood Hall Lane
Alexandria, Virginia 22306-2799
703-718-8208
www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library>

Proposal for greater RA transparency a step in right direction, John Lovaas, Fairfax Times, December 8, 2014

Going back maybe 10 years, I remember Reston Association (RA) members raising ethical questions about the expensive contractual arrangement for stream restoration. More recently, the controversial Lake Anne land swap giving an acre of quality forest to a private group in exchange for unuseable land and, to a lesser extent, the referendum on the air-conditioning monopoly, RELAC, at Lake Anne have led to growing concern about possible conflicts of interest among RA Board members. . .

RA Director Rachel Muir has circulated a proposal to create a modest, but independent and transparent, oversight committee consisting of three non-RA Board members of the Association, to be named by leading community organizations, and one RA Board member. The committee would receive complaints of ethics violations, investigate them and report their findings to the RA Board AND to the RA membership simultaneously. . . .
 Click here for the rest of John Lovaas'  letter.